A senior judge in South Korea's southern city of Gwangju offered to resign Saturday, holding himself accountable for the much-criticized ruling that valued a day's prison labor by a former tycoon at 500 million won (US$467,726).
The ruling by Chang Byong-woo, the chief of the Gwangju District Court, caused an angry uproar across the country, as it would have allowed Huh Jae-ho, 72, the former chairman of the now-defunct Daeju Group, to pay off his fines of 25.4 billion won through a mere 50 days of prison labor.
The rate applied to the property developer was up to 10,000 times higher than the normal daily wage of an inmate, generally valued at between 50,000 won and 100,000 won per day. The local media here have called it "the emperor's labor."
Back in 2010, Huh received a two-and-half-year suspended prison sentence along with the fine term for evading corporate taxes and embezzling corporate funds.
"I feel much responsibility for multiple reports over my case. I'd like to offer to resign and to apologize to the people," Chang said in his message.
He, however, said it is "a pity that just some parts of the ruling have been highlighted without a comprehensive and analytic approach to the reason."
After controversies erupted, prosecutors earlier this week overturned the court's decision and released him from the facility, vowing to levy the remaining 22.4 billion won in fines after deducting six days of prison labor.
Prosecutors and tax authorities also have begun looking for his assets, believed to be hidden in New Zealand, where he had maintained an extravagant lifestyle as a fugitive.
Daeju, a former business group based in Gwangju with 15 subsidiaries, collapsed in 2010 when its main construction arm went bankrupt due to a slump in the property market.